Scott Hahn is a champion of scripture, apologetics, and is a wonderful and gifted communicator of the faith. Each successive book he writes is a successive lift for the Body of Christ. He played a significant role in my own conversion, when he earned my trust with his open and honest Rome Sweet Home, making me feel free to explore more of the Catholic faith with a sense of curiosity and confidence. I read many of his works early on, was soon converted to the Catholic Church, and have since enjoyed much of his books and other work including radio, articles, etc.
That said, I was anticipating this book for a few months before its release. It was certainly a satisfying read.
The book opens up with a detailed look at the history of the New Evangelization, in such detail that I have not read before. It then points to the need for a renewed vigor for the faith, and sharing of the faith, the New Evangelization. He points out the never too much emphasized fact that evangelism is a “Catholic thing”.
In the middle of the book, “Part II”, are a few chapters dedicated to the model and methods for the New Evangelization. He he discusses how previous generations evangelized and tell us that each of us is called in various ways to share our faith in our given vocation and situation. The last third of the book, “Part III”, calls out the content of the New Evangelization. Following a scripturally sound model, the content contains the need to recognize sin, God’s work in atonement for that sin, a life in the Body of Christ, and being transformed but love. Overall, the book, especially the opening chapters, chapters 8 and 9 on the work in a Christian family and the Lay Apostolate, were very good. Not just very good — few communicate history, scripture, and how to apply these in the present age as well as Scott Hahn. His level of understanding and passing this knowledge on to others is unsurpassed. That said…
To me, the book is missing detail. Scott Hahn urges us, rightfully so, to take our faith to work, to bring it into our home, into our neighborhoods, etc., but does not tell us how to do this. I feel that this is the pivotal element that is missing in much of the literary work communicating the New Evangelization. Many Catholics just don’t know exactly how to talk to others about their faith, how to tell their testimony, and how to build a long-term relationship with people for the purpose of evangelization and discipleship. There are a plethora of books that say that we need to evangelize, ramp us up for a call to arms, but not a lot of works telling us how it is done. The secrets to having confidence, the ways we can serve those who don’t believe, how exactly to raise your kids on the faith, and a roadmap for missionary work in the Church. Because of this lack of detail, I feel this book falls short of its mission as a “Manual” for the New Evangelization.
Then there is a huge question mark right in the middle of the book. This one’s a real head scratcher. In his chapter on “Lessons from the Early Church” he discusses some tactics that helped the faith spread. In there, he mentions what he calls “Missionary Marriages” in which Christian women would marry pagan men and share their faith with them. Due to Christian women simply outnumbering pagan women due to the value of life, which completely eclipsed the culture, the faith spread due to these women’s faith and example. That’s good, and true to history, but what exactly is Scott asking Christian women to do? The Bible commands us to not be “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and the Catechism urges us to consider that the “difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated” (CCC 1633). If I understand history correctly, these women happened to be married, and shared their faith – they were not marrying for the purpose of evangelization. Hahn doesn’t outright say that women should marry in order to convert, but what exactly is he pointing out? He doesn’t say. The problem of forced marriages are not a problem for women in the 21st century West – so this is a huge hole in the book for me. If there was perhaps some clarification I would happily consider it, but there is not.
The New Evangelization has taken off. We aren’t waiting for it to begin, we are in the middle of it. However, much of the communication of the New Evangelization has not yet taken foot in the lives of the wider Body, everyday Catholics. In order for this to happen, I think strongly that discipleship and catechesis must be communicated in no abstract or broad detail, but must be stated specifically and with order. Because of the lack of detail in this book, which I think is vitally necessary for the New Evangelization, I did not think the book was a “Manual” for evangelization. It is a wonderful contribution and I certainly enjoyed it and even bought a hard-cover copy for my own reference. If I were to give this a rating, it would be 4/5 stars – a necessary buy for the evangelical Catholic.